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It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that David Hickok digs chocolate. After reading “The Essence of Chocolate” last summer, the senior culinology major read five more books on the subject and bought a tempering machine, which liquefies chocolate.

Fresno State’s Top Chef


Juan Villa / The Collegian

It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that David Hickok digs chocolate.

After reading “The Essence of Chocolate” last summer, the senior culinology major read five more books on the subject and bought a tempering machine, which liquefies chocolate.

“I like to experiment and create new flavor profiles,” said the Paso Robles native. “It’s a labor-intensive process, but it’s very rewarding.”

He was one of only five students in the nation to be presented with a $1,000 scholarship from the Research Chefs Association, which he received March 8 at the organization’s annual Culinology Expo in Seattle.

“I was stoked,” he said.

He had originally planned on going into journalism when he first arrived at Fresno State, but when he learned of the university’s culinology program, which began in the fall of 2006, he switched majors.

“I’ve been cooking since I was 16,” he said. “It’s something I’ve always loved to do. ”

Professor Klaus Tenbergn, who has taught Hickok in the past, said that he is always an innovative member of the class.

“He’s a very open-minded young gentleman,” Tenbergen said. “And highly intelligent. He is always coming up with new ideas, and he is always cooking, both in and outside of the classroom.”


Juan Villa / The Collegian

And one of his particular areas of interest is chocolate. Some of Hickok’s new flavors include white chocolate with Chinese cinnamon, vanilla bean with red pepper, and a white chocolate bar filled with Bailey’s caramel –– all sweets that his friends get to test taste, a habit that has earned him the nickname of the Candy Man.

“My friends are my guinea pigs,” Hickok said with a smile. “I’ll be like, ‘here, try this, eat this.’”

But what his test-tasters don’t realize is that these cocoa creations take a lot of careful attention to detail.

“In fact, the one thing that most people don’t realize about chocolate is that when it turns white, that doesn’t mean it’s old or spoiled,” Hickok said. “The temperature changes the structure of the sugar crystals and when it sits out at the wrong temperature, the crystals come to the surface.”

But when he’s not experimenting with chocolate, Hickok enjoys cooking for himself and friends, even though he admits that he dreads washing all of the dishes afterwards.

One of his favorite dishes to prepare is coconut salmon with a smoked macadamia sauce, but admits that his all-time favorite thing to eat is pizza.

“In Paso Robles I worked at this little place that served New York-style pizza,” he said. “Throwing the dough up in the air takes a lot of practice, but it’s a lot of fun, too. You spin it and spin it, and see how big you can get it without tearing any holes in it.”

The experience gave him an inside view of how the restaurant industry works, but he doesn’t see himself going into that line of work exactly –– though he would like to create dishes if given the opportunity.

“Actually, what I’d really like to do is develop new products for food companies in a lab,” he said. “I think this would be more rewarding [than being a restaurant chef] because more people will taste what I help create.”

But even with these career goals, Hickok is still holding on to his dreams that earned him his candy man nickname.

“Maybe someday [I’ll open a chocolate shop], if I keep working at it,” Hickok said, sharing that even dreams take practice. “It takes a long time to learn.”

  • Valerie Nevens

    The Collegian Staff Comment

    In my opinion this is the best story you’ve written Sarah, I really enjoyed it. Love the intro, love the quotes! Great Job!

  • Valerie Nevens

    The Collegian Staff Comment

    In my opinion this is the best story you’ve written Sarah, I really enjoyed it. Love the intro, love the quotes! Great Job!

  • Aunt Judy

    Great Job David!! Where’s my chocolate?
    Nicely written Sarah.

  • Aunt Judy

    Great Job David!! Where’s my chocolate?
    Nicely written Sarah.

  • Your other Aunt Judi and cousi

    We are proud of you David! We like chocolate too.

  • Your other Aunt Judi and cousin Ron

    We are proud of you David! We like chocolate too.

  • Jamaal Taylor

    That’a boy David!

  • Jamaal Taylor

    That’a boy David!

  • Becki York

    We sure miss your “samples”. We wish you the best!!

  • Becki York

    We sure miss your “samples”. We wish you the best!!